growth

What’s the main thing you need to be a pastor?

This both encourages and challenges me: the main qualifier for ministry is steady growth in love for God and others. Paul Woodson writes,

There is no one style of ministry that is productive and no one type of personality that represents good pastoral ministry. The sheer diversity of personality types among ministers is surely a sign that any particular personality type has little to do with the building of the Church. But the pastors whose ministries I particularly applaud (whether successful in the eyes of the world or not) are those whose love for the Lord Jesus is transparent and growing, whose ability to expound the Scriptures with devotion, clarity, practical application, and real unction is increasing, and whose love for people is not artificial or sentimental but self-denying and perceptive (this is essential to what is often called “pastoral care”), and whose desire to proclaim the gospel and work out its implications dictates the focus and priorities of their lives.

You can download this book, “Letters Along the Way” by D.A. Carson and Paul Woodson for free as a pdf by clicking here.

Justin Taylor’s Review of “What’s Best Next”

whats best next book cover 2Justin Taylor, blogger at The Gospel Coalition, has written a short review and roundup of opinions regarding Matt Perman’s new book, What’s Best NextTaylor writes,

To my knowledge, there is no one writing today who has thought more deeply about the relationship between the gospel and productivity. You will find in these pages a unique and remarkable combination of theological insight, biblical instruction, and practical counsel that would change the world if put into practice. I could not recommend it more highly.

I don’t think Taylor is exaggerating, and so I encourage you to pick up a copy on Amazon or WTS. It releases today, March 4th.

A Truly Wide Taste in Humanity

face in a crowd

The truly wide taste in reading is that which enables a man to find something for his needs on the sixpenny tray outside any secondhand bookshop.

The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet everyday. In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who “happen to be there.”

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 37.

Memorizing the Bible: why and how

The 8th chapter of Romans has been called the “Mount Everest” of the Bible, the pinnacle, the high point. According to Christians both old and new (read: dead and alive), it’s the place where the truths of Christianity shine most brilliantly and clearly.

And so at the beginning of this year I begun memorizing Romans 8. It was awesome. I loved having verse 1 remind me all day long, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And I kept going. Verse 2. Verse 3. And things got less clear. I don’t know if you’ve read Romans 8 recently, but verse 2 and 3 begin talking about the “law of the spirit of life” and the “law of sin and death,” and it confused me. I memorized them, but with less fervor. And eventually (about two weeks ago) I trailed off and abandoned the whole thing.

Just last night though I was catching up on John Piper’s podcast and heard him talk about bible memorization. His points about the lost spiritual discipline of memorization were so encouraging and refreshing that I decided to pick it up again. This is part of the normal Christian life, I suppose: resolving by God’s grace to do something, doing it, becoming discouraged, encountering your fallibility, and picking it up again by God’s grace.

The Why:

The How:

Get Started with This:

http://www.fbcdurham.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Scripture-Memory-Booklet-for-Publication-Website-Layout.pdf

Some Examples:

 

Free This Month: ESV Audio Bible

This month's free audiobook

This month’s free audiobook

Every month, christianaudio.com makes one audiobook available for free. Absolutely free. All you have to do is sign up for their newsletter that lets you know what their next free book is. I sound like a salesman. But it really is this good.

This month, they’ve chosen a great one. The Bible.

Get it here.

How To Write Great Goals

Most blog posts are like the newspaper. You’re glad you read them because now you feel up to date. But it doesn’t take long before they’re thrown away. It’s not that the content is bad. It’s just how the format works. Because of the constant stream of information, we’re less likely to archive, to file, to save, and to reflect on blog posts (and newspapers).

But there are exceptions.

Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt

One is Michael Hyatt’s The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting. I have it saved on my computer, printed, filed, annotated, you name it. It’s proved so useful that I have a copy out on my desk for reference whenever I’m considering my current week’s goals. Since it’s the new year and scores of people will be writing resolutions (or at least thinking about them), I want to commend his guide to you. I hope it’ll be valuable in your resolution-making this time of year.

If you only have time to check out one bullet point, read #2. It’s the gem in this article. Here are his five rules for making goals with some quotes.

1. Keep them few in number. “…focus on a handful of goals that you can repeat almost from memory.”

2. Make them “smart.”

    • Specific—your goals must identify exactly what you want to accomplish in as much specificity as you can muster.
    • Measurable—as the old adage says, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If possible, try to quantify the result. You want to know absolutely, positively whether or not you hit the goal.
    • Actionable—every goal should start with an action verb (e.g., “quit,” “run,” “finish,” “eliminate,” etc.) rather than a to-be verb (e.g., “am,” “be,” “have,” etc.)
    • Realistic— … A good goal should stretch you, but you have to add a dose of common sense.
    • Time-bound—… A goal without a date is just a dream. Make sure that every goal ends with a by when date.

3. Write them down. … When you write something down, you are stating your intention and setting things in motion.

4. Review them frequently. … Every time I review my goals, I ask myself, What’s the next step I need to take to move toward this goal. … The key is to do let them inspire and populate your daily task list.

5. Share them selectively.

Read the full article here.

The Screwtape Letters: In Less Than 600 Words

screwtape-lettersToday I was reading Andy Naselli’s blog and came across his wonderful summary of C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Screwtape Letters. In case you’re unfamiliar with C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters is written from the perspective of a demon/tutor. This “head demon” teaches his student, the recipients of the letters, how to lead a new Christian away from Christianity. Sounds a little strange. But it’s fantastic.

Here is Naselli’s “one sentence summary of each chapter.” I’ll post the first ten. Follow the link to see the rest!

  1. Make him preoccupied with ordinary, “real” life—not arguments or science.

  2. Make him disillusioned with the church by highlighting people he self-righteously thinks are strange or hypocritical.

  3. Annoy him with “daily pinpricks” from his mother.

  4. Keep him from seriously intending to pray at all, and if that fails, subtly misdirect his focus to himself or an object rather than a Person

  5. Don’t hope for too much from a war [in this case, World War II] because the Enemy often lets our patients suffer to fortify them and tantalize us.

  6. Capitalize on his uncertainty, divert his attention from the Enemy to himself, and redirect his malice to his everyday neighbors and his benevolence to people he does not know.

  7. Keep him ignorant of your existence, and make him either an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist who regards his cause as the most important part of Christianity.

  8. Make good use of your patient’s series of troughs and peaks (i.e., “the law of undulation”), and beware that the Enemy relies on the troughs more than the peaks.

  9. Capitalize on trough periods by tempting him with sensual pleasures (especially sex), making him content with his moderated religion, and directly attacking his faith as merely a “phase.”

  10. Convince him to blend in with his new worldly acquaintances.

Read the rest here, and check out Andy’s blog here. And the book is pretty cheap on Amazon! Just 10 bucks.

Why Being A Christian Is Hard

Our experiences today do not reflect God’s inattention or unfaithfulness, but his jealous love. He is exposing our wandering hearts and foolish minds and the way we trust our passions more than the principles of his Word. He is calling us to forsake our own glory for his, and teaching us that the idols we pursue will never satisfy us. He is making us wise to temptation and aware of a lurking enemy. He is teaching us to live for treasure that moth and rust can’t destroy and that thieves can’t steal. He is teaching us to live open, approachable, and humble lives.

We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations and relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations so that we will be holy.

Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Handspg 241.

Don’t Offer People False Hope

Real comfort is more thank thinking the right things in times of trouble. It involves having my identity rooted in something deeper than my relationships, possessions, achievements, wealth, health, or my ability to figure it all out. Real comfort is found when I understand that I am held in the hollow of the hand of the One who created and rules all things. The most valuable thing in my life is God’s love, a love that no one can take away. When my identity is rooted in him, the storms of trouble will not blow me away. …

This is the comfort we offer people. We don’t comfort them by saying that things will work out. They may not.

… Giving hope is more than convincing people that things will get better, or helping them decide what to do. Giving hope introduces them to a Person.

Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Handspg 151-152, 157.

Personality and Ministry: Perspectives

In this “personality and ministry” series, I’ve sought to provide my own answer to the question, “how do I fulfill my duties in ministry in a way that is (primarily) faithful to the gospel and (secondarily) faithful to the kind of person I am?”

The question hints at my priorities. I want, most of all, to be faithful to the gospel. On the last day, I want to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Don’t we all? But I realize that I’m living out this faithfulness with a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Everyday I have to deal with me.

Thankfully, other people have worked through these issues before me. I’m not the first person to ask that two-fold question. In this post I’ll be pointing your attention away from my little blog and toward some articulate and thoughtful men who have wrestled with this issue.

1. Gavin Ortlund: We Shouldn’t Moralize Strengths and Weaknesses

In his article, “Why I find the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Helpful,Gavin Ortlund makes a really helpful observation about the relationship between personality and morality:

No personality trait has any moral superiority to any other; God simply makes people differently. And yet it seems to me that we all tend to think that the way we operate is the “normal” one. … while the disputes that can occur between a J [judging personality type] and a P [perceiving personality type] can touch upon moral issues, they are not necessarily moral issues. The line between “personality” and “wisdom” or “personality” and “right/wrong” is not always crystal clear. … They remind us that not all of our differences are moral differences, and thus help us not make unnecessary judgments. They help us leave room for God-given differences, and thus learn from others where we might be tempted merely to criticize, and be cautious to assume our way is always the right way.

Do you see what he’s saying? The ways we operate as extroverts and introverts, perceivers and judgers, or whatever, are not always moral issues; though they can be. This is an area where discernment and caution can save us a lot of trouble.

Orltund makes two other helpful observations, and the rest of the article is worth your time if you’re interested in this subject.

2. John Piper: Awareness does not excuse complacency

John Piper I’ve had about seven Jiminy Crickets (Pinochio’s “official conscience”) walking around on my shoulders while writing these posts. They’re reminding me that I like, love my comfort zone, and that I better not slack off in my areas of weakness simply because I know they’re areas of weakness. I can’t let myself say, “I’ll leave those things (I’m not any good at) to other people.”

John Piper would agree. There is no reason for any sensible person called to ministry to settle for what they find themselves with. Piper, the man who has had more influence in my life than almost any other, wrote about this issue early in his days at Bethlehem Baptist:

When I came to this church I knew that I was not gifted in evangelism and personal witnessing. I have never been very good at turning a conversation with an unbeliever into a serious spiritual discussion of his condition before God. I suppose I could content myself under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit and say that he has called me to be a pastor-teacher, not an evangelist. … [but] unless the Lord makes it very clear to me that I must, I am not going to accept my lack of giftedness in evangelism. I have been praying and will go right on praying and ask you to pray with me that God will give me the gift to win people to Christ, one-on-one and through my preaching.

3. Justin Taylor (observing John MacArthur and John Piper): God does not create all pastors equally

Justin TaylorAt a conference in 2007, Justin Taylor led a discussion with John Piper and John MacArthur about a range of subjects related to ministry. In the video below, Taylor asks the two men how they deal with depression. Their responses are as different as is possible:

MacArthur: I don’t get depressed.

Piper: I get really depressed really often.

God uses the ministries of both these men to bring the truth of his Word to lives all around the world, but he does so through their black-and-white different personalities. I’m filled with hope when I realize that personality is not an obstacle to God’s grace — it is a conduit of God’s grace.

Conclusion

I begun by saying that I approach this whole issue with two goals, 1) I want to be faithful to the gospel, and 2) I want to be faithful to the person God made me to be.

These goals are not equally weighted. Like Paul, I am a servant of Jesus Christ. He has bought me with his blood and I am belong to him. Jesus begun his public ministry by telling people: repent and believe. Both of these are self-effacing actions. They both require that I look to Another. My most important calling is to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ — to repent of my sins and believe in the Good News.

But I’m daily submitting to Jesus’ kingship as the person he made me. Which means that my “repent and believe” will look slightly different when compared to yours. I daily have to repent (per point 1) of judging people for not being organized and self-disciplined, daily believe (per point 2) that God is intent on transforming me by his grace and not content to leave my in weaknesses, and I’m daily reminding myself (per point 3) that God will use me in whatever place I am. It’s never that neat and tidy. But it happens. There are moments of repentance. Sweet moments when I’m aware of God’s grace and his ability to use me wherever I am.

What have you heard people say about this issue?

What are your thoughts about the call to this two-fold faithfulness?